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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

April 29, 2024

Y is for Young Adult Fiction #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber

#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter Y

For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the genre/category and an example or two. I would love to know your thoughts on the genre/category and if you have any reading suggestions. Be sure to check out all of my A to Z posts.

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Young Adult Fiction is pretty self-explanatory. It is books meant for teenagers and perhaps those in their early 20s. However, in 2009 New Adult fiction began to emerge which were stories for readers 18 - 29 and featured plots about college and career discussions, moving out of their parents' home, and exploring romantic relationships on more adult level (a lot of new adult fiction contained detailed sex scenes). 

All the genres that are found in adult fiction can be found in young adult fiction. The characters are usually teens and there are usually few adults. The teen(s) is/are the star of the story.

The term young adult wasn't used regularly until the 1960s. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, published in novel form in 1951, and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, published in 1967, are notable in their realistic depiction of teenagers and their issues. We know, though, young adult fiction was being published earlier than that. The Hardy Boys was first published in 1927 and Nancy Drew in 1930. By the way, The Outsiders is still one of the best-selling young adult novels.

The term young adult was used primarily by librarians post-WWII as a way to help teenagers more easily find titles that would interest them as they transitioned from children's literature to adult fiction.

While Young Adult is popular with the target audience, a 2012 study showed that 55% of young adult books purchased were made by adults. Were they buying books for their teenagers or for themselves?

The category is popular with adults. Series such as Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight, The Maze Runner, and The Lord of the Rings are enjoyed by probably as many adults as they are by teenagers. 

It is perhaps New York Public Librarian Margaret Scoggin who coined the term when in 1944 she changed her library journal column from "books for older boys and girls" to "books for young adults". 

Prior to the 20th century there were plenty of stories that appealed to young adults but they weren't necessarily written with young adults in mind. Prior to child labor laws, children took on many adult roles and therefore were not considered as all that different from adults. Books published in the 1800s that we today consider young adult include Mark Twain's novels such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huck Finn and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The 1970s to the mid-1980s is considered the golden age of young adult fiction. During this period there was a growing number of novels addressing topics of interest to young adult. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume was published in 1970. In the 1980s young adult fiction began pushing the envelope on "taboo" topics such as rape, suicide, parental death, and murder. During the 1980s there was also a resurgence in the popularity of the young adult romance novel.

While I read the big series that I mentioned earlier, I haven't read much young adult fiction recently. I read The Circus Train by Amita Parikh last year, but I found the YA tropes tiresome. MK French reviews most of the young adult novels for Girl Who Reads.  Here is one she recently recommended.

A Place for Vanishing by Ann Fraistat

book cover of young adult novel A Place for Vanishing by Ann Fraistat

A teen girl and her family return to her mother's childhood home, only to discover that the house's strange beauty may disguise a sinister past, in this contemporary gothic horror from the author of What We Harvest.

The house was supposed to be a fresh start. That's what Libby's mom said. And after Libby’s recent bipolar III diagnosis and the tragedy that preceded it, Libby knows she and her family need to find a new normal.

But Libby’s new home turns out to be anything but normal. Scores of bugs haunt its winding halls, towering stained-glass windows feature strange, insectile designs, and the garden teems with impossibly blue roses. And then there are the rumors. The locals, including the mysterious boy next door, tell stories about disappearances tied to the house, stretching back over a century to its first owners. Owners who supposedly hosted legendary masked séances on its grounds.

Libby’s mom refuses to hear anything that could derail their family’s perfect new beginning, but Libby knows better. The house is keeping secrets from her, and something tells her that the key to unlocking them lies in the eerie, bug-shaped masks hidden throughout the property.

We all wear masks—to hide our imperfections, to make us stronger and braver. But if Libby keeps hers on for too long, she might just lose herself—and everyone she loves.

Buy A Place for Vanishing at Amazon

Read MK's review.  

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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  1. i find all these labels so interesting, but I've made that comment before. None of them existed when I was going through school in the 70s and 80s. Funny though that you mention how popular YA novels are with adults. I've read quite a few and find myself drawn to them. Kathryn Evan and Karen Thomson Walker come to mind. The protagonists are teenage girls. I don't know why these stories appeal to me, nor why I haven't discovered any with teenage male protagonists.

  2. I love young adult novels. not every book needs to be heavy, some just need to be good.

  3. I hate to admit it, but I'm very squeamish to bugs or anything that crawls and isn't in a diaper. I'll have to think about this book. Might get it for my daughter who loves horror, but it probably isn't for me. I don't know why I can handle a ghost with no problem, but show me a creeping bug and my stomach starts turning.

  4. I'm one of those adults who buys the young adult novels for myself. I don't love all the young adult series on TV, but in the books they are pretty good. Much more in the way of developed characters. I also have one adult daughter who still loves young adult books. But I also love adult books. :-)

  5. I love YA books. Thanks for the recommendation -- it went straight to my TBR, despite the bugs.

    Ronel visiting for Y: My Languishing TBR: Y
    Cursed Werewolves